City of Madisonville honors Rick Welch for America in Bloom project

Madisonville Mayor David Jackson, right, presented Messenger Publisher Rick Welch with a proclamation of America in Bloom Month and urged all citizens to help beautify our city at Monday night’s city council meeting. Welch suggested, helped organize and serves on the steering committee for the America in Bloom program. He introduced the idea to Mayor Jackson seven years ago and the program has continued to improve each year with the help of hundreds of city and community volunteers.

Q&A with Rick Welch:
What is America in Bloom?

America in Bloom envisions communities across the country as welcoming and vibrant places to live, work, and play – benefitting from colorful plants and trees; enjoying clean environments; celebrating heritage; and planting pride through volunteerism.

America in Bloom’s mission promotes nationwide beautification through education and community involvement by encouraging the use of flowers, plants, trees, and other environmental and lifestyle enhancements.

America in Bloom is an independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization and contributions to AIB are tax deductible.

Participants experience better cooperation among municipal, commercial and residential sectors because everyone works toward a common goal. They enjoy visible results. Via the national symposium and awards, they have information and cultural exchanges with neighboring, national and international communities.

As one mayor said, “We first thought it was about flowers. But it is about seeing our community and our residents bloom in so many ways.”

What specifically does it mean for Madisonville? What kinds of projects are being undertaken? And who is sponsoring?

America in Bloom provides Madisonville with a framework for continuous improvements in quality of life through its national awards program and educational offerings.

Here is what AIB participants say about the program.

A quality of life improvement program

…a great concept that can help develop both beautification and economic improvement

…a grassroots program that believes that connecting people and plants is important to everyone’s quality of life

…propagates the love of plants and their interaction with our communities

…enhances cities to make them better places to live

…promotes community health by using horticulture

…builds pride of place for communities and enhances awareness of different facets of the community

A community improvement program

…an opportunity to make a community more appealing through community involvement

…a challenging experience, but worth the effort to see a cocoon become a butterfly

…a nationwide program that brings a community together to beautify inside and out

…a unique and informative creative concept to highlight your community and improve overall involvement of the neighborhoods

…a wonderful shot in our community’s arm; through it we are reborn

…a community effort to beautify and improve your town by getting the residents involved

…an opportunity for communities to identify and build their image

…amazing as it provides the process to get cities and towns moving and working together to improve their communities

A civic pride and community involvement program

…promotes and showcases pride in cities

…nurtures volunteerism

…pulls together volunteers to impact the community

…a building and enhancement program

…a contagious awakening of community pride

…a method for involving the total community in planting pride

An educational and community engagement program

…makes us more aware of how beautiful we can make our communities by working together

…a teaching experience to educate rather than criticize

…serves as a catalyst for building community pride, participation, passion and education

A source of inspiration

…inspiring and encouraging

…inspiration for change and improvement

A catalyst

…a great resource and motivator to improve our city’s public image as well as revenue for downtown businesses

…motivating

…rewarding

…a municipal and volunteer self improvement program that brings the community together

…a vehicle to coordinate community improvement

…a catalyst for action on a continuing basis

A friendly competition

…a friendly competition that serves our community as a unifier for the various non-profits, corporations, private citizens for a common goal

…an awards program that can be used to generate enthusiasm and education for community-wide improvement projects

A valuable tool

…comprehensive inexpensive survey of a city

…a powerful community building tool

…a program that, via the judges’ evaluation, gives us an annual list of issues to address

The City of Madisonville is sponsoring the program.

Is it strictly blooming plants or are there other ways the steering committee is helping to beautify Madisonville?

There are Six Evaluated Criteria

America in Bloom judges review and evaluate each participant in six categories. Efforts are evaluated in four sectors: municipal, commercial, residential, and community involvement. 

Floral Displays

Flower beds, containers, baskets, window boxes. Arrangement, originality, distribution, location, diversity, balance, harmony, quality of maintenance. Use and integration of annuals, perennials, ornamental grasses, bulbs, and seasonal flowers.

Landscaped Areas

Overall design and suitability of landscape, turf and ground covers. Use of native plants. Overall design and suitability for location/use; good use of design principles (i.e., balance of plant material and constructed elements, harmony, color, texture, shape, etc.). Sustainability. Integration of hardscapes, lighting, site features, sculpture. Maintenance (weeds, mulching practices, edging); site rejuvenation and rehabilitation. Efforts in strategic planning. Community gardens, children’s gardens, public gardens and zoos.

Urban Forestry

Distribution, variety and suitability of trees; new plantings; urban tree program; qualified personnel or access to trained individual(s); inventory or database; frequency of tree surveys; care and maintenance programs; preservation of heritage trees and woodlots; scheduled succession plantings. Efforts in management, planning, maintenance, improvement, and innovation. Written policies, by-laws and regulations, long and short term plans.

Environmental Efforts

Sustainability practices. Recycling (paper, glass, metal, plastic, electronics, etc.), policies and by-laws, sustainable development strategies, waste reduction, hazardous waste minimization and collection (oil, paint, chemicals, used batteries, etc.), water quality and conservation, energy conservation, environmental cleanup activities, reducing carbon footprint, environmentally friendly transportation, LEED certification, air, noise and light pollution, rain gardens and rain barrels, composting, energy efficiency, youth programs, etc. Events such as Earth Day, Recycling Days, Bike to Work Days, etc.

Heritage Preservation

Historical, natural, agricultural, and cultural heritage. Preservation and restoration of buildings, homes, churches, cemeteries; heritage sites and/or monuments; heritage parks, historical gardens and heritage trees; artifacts; historical society; heritage advisory committee, museums, archives, history books, and interpretative programs; ordinances and policies. Resource availability. Farmers markets, festivals and parades.

Overall Impression

Cleanliness, lack of litter and graffiti. Maintenance of public open spaces, medians and boulevard strips, streets, sidewalks, walking and biking trails, curbs, ditches, road shoulders, unattended and vacant lots, buildings, garbage receptacles; lack of weeds, dog waste policies and receptacles, notices/posters appropriately displayed, vandalism not evident. Maintenance of the hardscape: sidewalks, walls, lamp posts, benches, playgrounds, etc. Appropriate use and placement of graphic elements such as banners, signs and murals.

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